Doctors have identified 40 commonly prescribed treatments which either don’t work or won’t necessarily help patients get better.
X-rays don’t always help those suffering from lower back pain and blood tests are not needed to diagnose the menopause in women, experts said.
The findings form part of a new ‘Choosing Wisely’ campaign, which warns people that “more doesn’t always mean better” when it comes to treatment.
The campaign comes after 82% of doctors said they had prescribed or carried out a treatment which they knew to be unnecessary, with patient pressure or patient expectation cited as the main reason.
To help patients and medics make the right decisions about care, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC) has recorded 40 treatments or tests that are of little or no use to patients.
Some of the advice includes:
- Using tap water to clean up cuts and grazes is just as good as a saline solution.
- A plaster cast is not needed for some small wrist fractures in children who may find that a removable splint will help them to heal just as quickly.
- Children with bronchiolitis, or breathing problems, often get better without treatment.
- Electronic monitoring of a baby’s heart is only needed during labour if the mother has a higher risk of complications.
- X-rays do not help to deal with lower back pain if there are no other concerning features.
- Chemotherapy may be used to relieve terminal cancer symptoms but can also be painful, cannot cure the disease and may well bring further distress in the final months of life.
- Routine screening for prostate conditions using a test known as a Prostate Specific Antigen, or PSA test, does not lead to longer life and can bring unnecessary anxiety.
- Blood tests are not necessarily needed to diagnose menopause in women aged 45 and over.
The AMRC also gives key pointers to patients and doctors on how to treat health-related issues.
It also advises patients to ask themselves five key questions when seeking treatment, such as:
- Do I really need this treatment?
- What are the risks or downsides?
- What are the possible side-effects?
- Are there simpler, safer options?
- What will happen if I do nothing?
AMRC chairman Professor Dame Sue Bailey told The Press Association: “We all have a duty to look after resources in healthcare, especially when the NHS is under so much pressure, but that’s not the main motivation for this initiative.
“What’s much more important is that both doctors and patients really question whether the particular treatment is really necessary.
“Medicine or surgical interventions don’t need to be the only solution offered by a doctor and more certainly doesn’t always mean better.”